Sunday, March 27, 2016

Potato and Ham Fritters for Easter Brunch

Every time I go to Costco I buy one of their spiral sliced hams. As soon as I come home I put it right in my special roasting pan and when it's done we descend on it like a pack of vultures. It is something that all five of us (my mom, my husband, myself and both of my kiddos) just love. When the ham is ready it is a tradition for us to stand over the pan as we eat, tearing off piece after piece until we can't possibly take another bite. The kids pretty much giggle their way through the ham because they know this is the only time they don't have to practice their manners.

Try as we might, there is always lots of leftover ham - which is always good to have on hand.  I usually leave some of the nicer sliced pieces for sandwiches and chop up the rest for omelets, casseroles, and dishes such as these Potato and Ham Fritters. The ham keeps well in the freezer and thaws within minutes, making it very convenient for those days when you have little on hand.  It has become somewhat of a go to for me.

If you are lucky enough to have a little leftover ham from Easter, you can easily put these fritters together. You probably have all the necessary ingredients on hand: potatoes, peas and/or spinach, cheese, eggs, garlic, and oil and/or butter for frying. I love that you can make these your own by changing or adjusting amounts. I opted to add the cheese to mine because I love how well cheese compliments ham. I enjoyed mine dipped in some Dijon mustard (another good compliment to ham) while everyone else seemed to enjoy theirs as is. We really enjoyed these and I think you will too!

Potato and Ham Fritters
Adapted from Donna Hay website
Makes 6 small fritters

3 average Russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons lemon rind
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 peas or chopped spinach
1/2 cup chopped ham
canola oil & butter, for frying
fresh spinach, for serving

Place the potato in a medium sized saucepan, cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Cook for 10-12 minutes or until tender when tested with a skewer. Drain and roughly mash. Set aside to cool.

Place the cooled potato, garlic, onion, lemon rind, eggs, peas or spinach, and ham in a bowl and mix to combine. Heat a large skillet (I prefer cast iron) and drizzle in enough canola oil and butter to fry the fritters (I used about 3-4 tablespoons oil and a little knob of butter). Shape about 1/4 cup of the fritter mixture into a round cake and fry. Shape the remaining mixture and fry in batches, if necessary, until the fritters are golden brown. Serve with the spinach. Should make around 6 fritters.

Theme: March Potluck!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Tuscan Lentil and Macaroni Salad

Spring is an awkward transition. Mornings usually start out near freezing, but by afternoon it's hot as Hades and nearing 80F.  You never know whether you want to wear you parka and winter boots or your capri pants and flip flops. Likewise, in the morning you've got your hot cocoa in hand while having visions of piping hot pot roast and mashed potatoes for dinner. However, by the time you leave work you are sweating in your winter clothes and visiting the ice cream stand. You simply just can't win! This salad reminds me of spring. Hearty enough to satisfy, yet light enough to keep you on your toes.

Whole-grain pasta and green lentils are the heart of this salad. Whisk up a light and refreshing Dijon vinaigrette; toss in some carrots, artichokes, and tomatoes and you will have one delightful pasta salad that is perfect for picnics and/or packing in mason jars for your lunch. I think this salad would be equally delicious with white beans in place of lentils.  I also think some black olives would make a nice addition.

Tuscan Lentil and Macaroni Salad
Adapted from You Have It Made
by Ellie Krieger
Serves 6

2 cups chicken (or vegetable) broth
1 cup green lentils
2 medium carrots, diced
8 ounces whole-grain elbow pasta
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons champagne or white vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or 
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
salt and pepper, to taste
One 10-ounce package frozen artichokes, thawed, drained and chopped OR
1 jar quartered and marinated artichoke hearts
1-1/2 cups grape tomatoes, quartered OR
2 roma tomatoes, deseeded and chopped into small chunks
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves

Combine the broth and lentils in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 25 minutes. Add carrots and cook until the lentils are tender but still retain their shape, 5 to 10 minutes more. Drain any remaining liquid and allow to cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the macaroni and cook for 1 minute fewer than it says on the package directions. Drain, toss with 1 tablespoon of the extra virgin olive oil, and allow to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil, the vinegar, oregano, mustard, salt and pepper. Add the pasta, lentils and carrots, artichoke hearts, tomatoes, and parsley and toss to combine.

This salad will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Stir well and add a splash of vinegar before serving if desired, as the acidity tends to fade over time.

Serving size: 1-1/2 cups; 360 calories; 11g total fat; 15g protein; 55g carbs; 12g fiber; 0mg cholesterol. Excellent source of: fiber, iron, manganese, protein, vitamin A, vitamin K

Theme: Green Eating!
Every Sunday @ Kahakai Kitchen

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Rick Bayless' Guacamole with Bacon and Tomato {A Party Favorite}!!

This guacamole is to die for! It's silky, smooth, and creamy with hints of smokiness from the addition of bacon and smoky chiptole chiles. The bacon adds a wonderful crunchy texture while the chipotles provide just the right amount of heat. The addition of tomato, onion, and cilantro brighten up the dish with their fresh flavor and lime adds that undeniable tang that really pops in the mouth. This is such a heavenly and satisfying guacamole. It is guaranteed to receive rave reviews.

I do have a couple of tips. When planning to make guacamole, buy your avocados a few days in advance so they are sure to be ripe. In order to achieve the creamy consistency that is desired for this recipe you will need perfectly ripe avocados. Also, since fresh tomatoes are not in season I recommend a roma tomato for this recipe. I find roma tomatoes to be the best to work with in the off season. Additionally, buy one can of chipotles en adobo, using what you need for this recipe, and then freezing the rest. The chiles will keep in the freezer indefinitely and you will love being able to pull them out from time to time. Since the bacon is pretty much the star of this dish, you'll want to use a good quality bacon for this recipe. When I cook bacon in strips on the stovetop, it always tends to bubble up and cook unevenly, even when fried in a cast iron skillet. For this reason I like to cut my bacon into lardons, or chunks, prior to frying. This serves two purposes. First, the cut bacon cooks faster and secondly, the bacon cooks evenly without bubbling up and being overdone on one side and raw on the other.

This is truly a delightful guacamole recipe! I assure you it would be a smashing hit at any party or get together. In fact, it's now at the top of my list when it comes to party foods. I will most definitely be making this again.

Bacon & Tomato Guacamole
Adapted from
by Rick Bayless
Serves 8

5 strips full flavored bacon
3 medium-large ripe avocados
1/2 medium white onion, chopped into 1/4" pieces
2 or 3 canned chipotle chiles en adobo, to taste-removed from the canning sauce, stemmed, slit open, seeds scraped out and finely chopped
1 medium-large round, ripe tomato, cored and chopped into 1/4" pieces
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, loosely packed, coarsely chopped, thick bottom stems cut off
salt, to taste
1 or 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice 

In a large 10 inch skillet, cook the slices of bacon in a single layer over medium heat, turn them occasionally, until crispy and browned, about 10 minutes. Drain on paper towels, then coarsely crumble.

Cut around each avocado, from stem to blossom end and back again, then twist the two halves apart. Dislodge the pit. Scoop the flesh from the skin into a large bowl. Using an old-fashioned potato masher or a large fork or spoon, mash the avocados into a coarse puree.

Scoop the onion into a small strainer and rinse under cold water. Shake off the excess water and transfer to the bowl, along with the chipotle chiles, tomatoes, cilantro and about 2/3 of the bacon (save some of these for the garnish, if you wish).

Gently stir to combine all of the ingredients. Taste and season with salt, usually about 1/2 teaspoon, and enough lime juice to add a little sparkle.

Garnish with remaining bacon and any other toppings and serve.  Or, cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the guacamole and refrigerate until you're ready to serve.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Superfood Stuffed Peppers

Warning: I'm feeling chatty today. We're cooking with ancient grains over at I Heart Cooking Clubs this week and I'm quite excited about it! There are endless products out there when it comes to ancient grains, but I'd like to tell you about some of my favorites. 

I love Costco for many reasons. This Quinoa & Brown Rice with Garlic is one reason why. Healthy and organic grains in a microwaveable pouch? Seriously? Cut the top off and place in the microwave for 90 seconds and you have one of the tastiest side dishes ever. Truly. I buy two boxes of this every single time I go. 

We love this Quinoa & Brown Rice mix served with just about anything, but namely this Ancient Grain Encrusted Cod that I buy from the Schwan man.  A piece of Ancient Grain Encrusted Cod with a little of this Quinoa & Brown Rice mix and a green veggie and you are all set for one tasty (and extremely easy) dinner. This meal is my best friend on days I work. We eat this combo at least once a week!

Ancient grains add great flavor and texture when incorporated into a dish. For example, I like to mix quinoa, amaranth, chia, and millet into my homemade granola. Another way to introduce ancient grains to your family is to use them in place of rice, in a filling such as this, for these Superfood Stuffed Peppers.  

In this recipe, quinoa is added to ground chicken in place of rice. Adding quinoa is a great way to up the nutrition content without anyone noticing. These Superfood Stuffed Peppers are packed with lots of protein from the chicken and the quinoa. They are also loaded with veggies: carrot, spinach, zucchini, tomatoes, and peppers. 

This is something I rarely mention, but I am a careful shopper. Now by no means am I a frugal shopper, but I do pay attention to prices and cut costs where I can. This recipe just happens to be a perfect example. The recipe calls for 8 red peppers. Red peppers are $1.79 each so that's a whopping $14.32 just for the base of the recipe. No matter your financial situation, no one should spend money like that. To remedy this I decided to halve the recipe in two different ways. First by buying only 4 peppers and next by cutting them in half lengthwise so that each pepper serves 2. Four whole peppers for a total of 8 halves is more than enough for 5 people.  In addition, the halved peppers are prettier, display the filling better for the blog, and are much easier to eat. Next, I only bought 1 red pepper at the hefty price of $1.79 each and then opted to sub in 1 yellow pepper and 2 green peppers at $.99 each. Not only were these substitutions more economical, but they are also more colorful and therefore nicer to present and photograph.

Another way I cut the cost on this recipe was to substitute ground chicken in place of the ground turkey. It's not that I don't like ground turkey, but rather that ground turkey has skyrocketed in price. In years past ground turkey was the same price as ground chicken, hovering around $3.99/lb. In the past few years, ground turkey has gone up in price dramatically, at the hefty price of  $5.99/lb or even $6.99/lb. It seems rather silly to pay almost double for ground turkey when you can pay $3.99/lb for ground chicken. For this reason I almost always substitute ground chicken for ground turkey. Total savings for both of these changes resulted in saving $10 in peppers and $3 in meat, making this meal much more affordable, without sacrificing anything in the flavor category or the overall color and appeal of the dish. This means more money in the food budget for those higher end products!

I made a few changes to Ellie's recipe. First, I never make stuffed peppers without parboiling the peppers for at least minute. This helps to soften up the peppers and improve the overall quality of the dish. Secondly, I added garlic.You can hardly make a recipe like this without garlic! Lastly, I had some tomatoes to use up and added them to the sauce. I also sprinkled about a tablespoon of  Parmesan cheese on top of each pepper half because you simply cannot have stuffed peppers without cheese. These peppers were really fresh and delicious and I felt good about serving them because they are packed with lots of super ingredients.  Bonus: they keep well and are even better the next day! Yum!

Superfood Stuffed Peppers
Adapted from You Have It Made
by Ellie Krieger
Makes 4 servings

4 medium bell peppers*
1/2 pound lean ground chicken*
half of a (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes, strained-juice reserved
5 oz.frozen chopped spinach, thawed & squeezed of all liquid
1/2 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 medium zucchini, finely diced
1 small carrot, finely diced
1 clove garlic, grated
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
1-1/2 teaspoons dried oregano, divided
salt & pepper, to taste
red pepper flakes, to taste
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
Optional: Parmesan cheese 

Notes: I halved this recipe using 4 varying colors of peppers. I also subbed chicken for turkey because it was lower in cost, but feel free to use either. I also added garlic to the filling and fresh tomatoes to the sauce.  The original recipe didn't call for cheese, but I sprinkled about a tablespoon of Parmesan cheese on each half.

Preheat the oven to 375F. Cut the peppers in half lengthwise and remove the core, ribs, and seeds.  Parboil them for 1 - 2 minutes to soften.

Place the chicken, 1/2 the 14.5 oz can of tomatoes (reserving the rest and the juice for the sauce below), spinach, quinoa, zucchini, carrot, garlic, parsley, 1 teaspoon oregano, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes and mix with a wooden spoon until just combined.

Pack the turkey mixture into the peppers, then place them face up, into a large casserole dish or a Dutch oven with a lid. You will want to bake them covered.

In a small bowl, combine the reserved tomatoes and tomato liquid with the tomato sauce, remaining 1/2 teaspoon oregano, and salt and pepper. Pour the tomato sauce over the top and sides of the peppers, cover, and bake until the peppers are tender but retain their shape, about 90 minutes.  Serve the peppers with their sauce.